Alternate Headline: How I Got My Former Boss Fired. This post will run long, so anticipate a jump, but the gist of it is there’s a new book coming out in December by Chuck Thompson called Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a rogue travel writer. The book is a rant against the homogeneity and lackluster prose that pervades travel writing. Joe Queenan blurbed, “Smile When You’re Lying could do for the travel industry what The Tipping Point did for the tipping point industry.” In 1999, Chuck hired me to be an Assistant Editor at Travelocity Magazine a custom publication experiment from American Airlines Publishing. The travel Web site wanted a newsstand magazine for branding and, um, I don’t know what else. The deal soured after a little more than a year. Chuck, a former editor at American Way had soured on Dallas before it even started. Read on, if you want.
I should state at the outset that I like Chuck a lot. He’s a great writer. More importantly, he was a great boss: effusive with praise, loyal and respectful, and hardly ever around. Not that he wasn’t working. He just chose to work in Portland whenever he could. See, Chuck didn’t like Dallas, and in person and in print, he’s never shy about his opinions. Here, an excerpt:
You don’t move to Dallas for fun or the kind of money they were paying me. Unless you were born to it, Dallas is impossible to appreciate. The city embodies the worst of L.A. (vanity-plate car culture, general lack of personal integrity, smog, fake [you know whats]) without any of the redeeming parts (the beach, nice weather, nine NBS titles, classic Randy Newman theme song).
At this point it’s imperative to note a significant distinction between “Dallas” and “Texas.” For understandable reasons, non-Texans have a tendency to lump the two together. This is unfair to Texas. … Dallas is largely a city of carpetbaggers and ambitious hacks who have nothing in common with the state’s cow punchers, country outlaws, and salt-of-the-earth types who enunciate all three syllables and pronounce the “h” in words like “vehicle.” On those occasions that I got out of Dallas and made it to Texas, I actually had a pretty good time, despite the truly odious politics that prevail there.
That’s all pretty much vintage Chuck. That chapter goes on to document the pseudo-rise and definite fall of Travelocity Magazine, and so far it’s the only chapter I’ve read. I was just going to skim it and look for my name, but I ended up reading the whole thing. Ah, the memories of the magazine consultant who came in to show us naughty pictures, the San Francisco office that hated us from the start, and the slammed doors and stressful meetings that Chuck, bless him, spared me from.
So how did I get Chuck fired? He did a pretty good job of filling up the pot, turning on the burner, and giving himself a good soak in hot water. But the final indiscretion was a photo of “Bob from Oregon.” I’d gone on a Royal Caribbean cruise and written a story about the new demographic the cruise industry was going after — you know, the Iggy Pop-listening, jet-skiiing, faux-rock-climbing Gen X’ers you saw on commercials. My girlfriend at the time was Nancy Newberry, a fantastic photographer who went with me and brought her camera. The opening spread of the magazine article featured Bob in all his glory, and there was a bit too much Bob for the higher-ups’ liking at Travelocity. As Chuck recalls hearing, “No one wants to see a fat white [expletive deleted] in a swimsuit in a travel magazine and no one ever should!” No more Chuck. I took over for an issue or two, then no more magazine. Rather than stick around AAP, I came back to D. Rather than stick around Dallas, Chuck moved to the Northwest, got married, and writes books. Wanna see Nancy’s photo of Bob? Okay: